If you’re getting into processing your own wild game, it pays to invest in a good knife set . I originally bought this roll from the Bargain Cave of Cabela’s Sidney, Neb., store close to 15 years ago. The Messermeister knives that came with it have served me fairly well since then, but now that I’m cutting a lot more meat than I used to, I’ve started to swap out the original knives for some new ones. If you call me to cut your deer, here’s what I’m showing up with (from left to right):
Dexter Sani-Safe Boning Knives: This is my first season with these two boning knives–a 5-inch straight blade and 6-inch curved blade. In the past month, they’ve cut a bear, two antelope, and one deer. I’ve touched them up a few times, but for the most part the high-carbon steel blades stay sharp enough to bone and trim one deer-sized animal. I really like the handles, which are not only comfortable, but also clean up easily and are hi-viz white so I always know one is on the cutting table while I’m working with its mate. Best thing is, they are inexpensive. I picked these up at Cabela’s for less than $20 each. Chances are, they’re the same models your butcher uses.
Messermeister Boning Knives: Before this season, this 6-inch knife was my go-to blade for boning out a deer. The X55 chromoly steel is a little soft, which meant it required a few touch ups during the butchering process, but with a couple quick strokes of the steel it was good as new. The 8-inch model is a little long and doesn’t get much use, unless I find myself with an elk hanging.
Dexter Sani-Safe Butcher Knife: This wide, 8-inch blade might seem like overkill for a deer, but it’s the best knife I’ve found to break down bigger cuts. For perfect, evenly cut steaks, just pop the top sirloin and bottom round roasts into the freezer for 30 minutes or so to firm them up, then go at them with this knife.
Messermeister 3-inch Paring Knife: Just right for cleaning waterfowl and upland birds, picking shot out of breasts, processing small game or other jobs where a larger knife would be unwieldy and dangerous.
Buck Fillet Knife: A flexible fillet knife is great for boning out deer, cutting the breasts from geese or turkeys or, you know, filleting a fish. This one has a 6-inch blade and comfortable, sure-grip rubberized handle.
Sharpening Steel: This old steel should probably be retired. It’s kind of finicky and can really screw up an edge. But, used right, it’s the second-best way to touch up a blade when you’re in the middle of a job.
WorkSharp Ceramic Honing Rod: The best, portable sharpener I’ve found. The ceramic rod telescopes into the plastic handle, which is angled to guide you to just the right bevel. Two to three quick swipes is all it takes to put an edge on a dull blade. The only downside? The ceramic is very fragile. I used to have two until I dropped one on the concrete floor of my shop, breaking it into a half dozen pieces.
Messermeister Game Shears: Who knows how many birds these have quartered. I’ve never even taken the time to sharpen them, but, with that notch in the heel of the blade, they still power through legs, wings or whatever I put them up against. Plus, the two pieces separate for easier cleaning.